T-Mac is back.
After playing almost the entire 2012-2013 NBA season in China, free agent Tracy McGrady will get a chance to play in the NBA yet again.
The San Antonio Spurs have decided to add the seven-time All-Star to the roster for their playoff run that begins this weekend. This is in large part due to the release of Stephen Jackson along with Boris Diaw‘s surgery that will likely keep him out the rest of the season.
While playing in China, the 33-year-old has given reason for the NBA to believe he can still compete at this level. McGrady averaged 25 points and shot 56 percent from the field while playing for Qingdao in the Chinese Basketball Association.
Since he was not on an NBA roster prior to March 1, McGrady is eligible to play right away for the Spurs.
There is not a player currently out there that is more fitting to tack on at the very last second. The 15-year veteran (emphasis on 15) played in this league for a long time and played at a high level. The man knows how to put the ball in the bucket. Now, even though he might not have the freak athleticism that allowed him to get to the rim at will like in his younger days (see Shawn Bradley picture above), McGrady still has exceptional passing skills that could not be more welcome to his new team. He is a natural player of the game and will pick up on the Spurs system faster than many think.
It also should be noted that T-Mac has been humbled by playing an entire season outside of America. Just like his cousin Vince Carter has come to understand with the Dallas Mavericks, there comes a point when superstars must take on smaller, veteran roles. That’s why Allen Iverson is still out of the league. I have no doubt that McGrady will be ready and excited to play five minutes, 25 minutes or with the practice squad while in San Antonio.
I may be a Mavs fan, and I may consequently not like the Spurs. Yet, I can’t help but think this is a great move that will turn out to be a success for both parties. The Spurs needed a veteran wing player that could come in right away and have an impact. McGrady fits that bill.
The most interesting part of this signing may not be about the signing itself.
Even though McGrady is tenth in total points among active players and will be considered for the Hall of Fame, the one knock against the man is his inability to get out of the first round. Out of the eight playoff series he played in during his 15 NBA seasons, he never moved on to the second round. What makes it even weirder is that he has put up great playoff numbers. During his six playoff runs with the Magic and Rockets when he was the focal point of the offense, McGrady averaged 42.8 minutes, 29.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists. But for some reason, he couldn’t string together four playoff wins during any given year.
(Ironically, when he was injured in 2008-2009 and unable to play in the postseason, his team advanced and was one game away from the Western Conference Finals.)
Joining the 2nd-seeded Spurs gives T-Mac a very good chance to finally erase this unusual statistic. During the past 12 seasons, the Spurs have gone to the playoffs 12 times and failed to reach the second round only twice. As long as his new team can get Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker healed and ready to suit up for playoff basketball, the T-Mac curse could become no more.
To add to this oddity, McGrady’s Spurs will soon be facing a Houston Rockets franchise that he was the face of for six years, including three one-and-done playoff years. He will get the chance to avenge all those heartbreaking seasons in which he was ridiculed for not being able to take his team to the next level.
The Spurs-Rockets matchup now might not be the least interesting West series. Thunder-Lakers (I’m calling it). Nuggets-Warriors. Clippers-Grizzlies. All of those series are going to have some great basketball being played. A wrench has now been thrown in the 2-seed vs. 7-seed series that will bring in some extra viewers. A talented wrench.
No matter how effective he turns out to be, I’m glad that McGrady is getting another chance to prove his worth in the NBA. I watched him during his prime and was simply in awe at the combination of athleticism and intelligence he brought to the court every night. He is older but he is still T-Mac.
“Whatever happens, I’m just glad to be a part of this environment,” McGrady texted ESPN.com. “[It’s] something I never experienced while being my best!”
Hopefully this environment will allow him to experience something else that is new – a playoff series win.
We will all know soon enough.
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